With the regular season winding down, it’s about time for the Warriors to address a potential reality of starting the playoffs without two of their key players.
Can the Warriors contend for a title without Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II? Payton, out with a core injury, has resumed on-court activity and could return to game action before the remaining nine regular-season games are up. Wiggins is completely missing in action and out indefinitely as he tends to an undisclosed family matter.
Draymond Green, on his podcast, shared his thoughts on whether the Warriors have a fighter’s chance without the two wing defenders.
“To answer that, it would be tough,” he said. “Two of your best wing defenders — Donte (DiVincenzo) is an incredible wing defender as well — but it would be tough. Two guys, super athletic guys on the team because that’s huge. Especially when you get into the playoffs playing against different schemes. But sometimes you need that super athletic guy to break the wall.”
The Warriors have struggled to find their defensive identity with Wiggins missing most of the season due to injury and, for the last 16 games, due to this personal matter. They acquired Payton at the trade deadline to help re-establish the lockdown defense that helped them secure the 2022 championship last season.
Payton is “doing well” and is set to be re-evaluated by the training staff Thursday, but has yet to play a game with the Warriors since being traded on Feb. 9. There is no timeline for Wiggins’ return.
“Yes, we do need both of them and hope to get them back,” Green said. “As you know, you have to roll with what you got. Hopefully we’ll get GP back sooner, and Wiggs, we’ll see.”
Wiggins’ and Paytons’ absences will come into play as the Warriors take on a returning Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. Golden State has limited length without them to defend the 6-foot-7 guard.
“We know what we’re capable of,” coach Steve Kerr said pregame. “We’re hopeful to get Wiggs and Gary Payton back, guys who were key players for us in the championship run a few years ago. We can feel it, a lot of these games where we’re a little short defensively — literally and figuratively — so to get guys back who can help us take our defense up another notch, if we can get to that stage, it gives us a chance.
“We won a title last year. So we know what we’re capable of. But we have to get there. And we’re in a dogfight with a lot of teams just trying to get there.”
Green also addressed rumors spreading on social media about Wiggins’ extended absence. Particularly one from an online personality that alleged infidelity between Wiggins and his partner was the cause of his absence. Green called those online starting and spreading the rumor “disgusting.”
“I want to let you all know how absolutely ridiculous you people are at life,” Green said. “The fact that a rumor about Andrew Wiggins — I don’t know if it’s true, I’m not here to confirm if it’s true or not. It has nothing to do with me. I really don’t care. You hear stuff like that and you care for him and her and their children, so I care from that perspective. Whether it’s true or not has no bearing on my life or y’all life.”
He added: “Whether it’s true or false, I don’t know if the world will ever know. Quite frankly, I don’t think it matters for the world to ever know if it is or isn’t. … You don’t know what someone is dealing with, then you’re making them deal with that? It’s disgusting.”